It’s a beautiful fall here in the DC area, and I’m trying to eek out every evening of outdoor time. We had some friends over the other evening and I pulled out one of my easiest and all time favorite recipes for grilled flank steak. Everyone needs a few quick, “greatest hits” recipes. This is one of those. I created it after reading an article about summer grilling ideas written by a Vietnamese cook.
You need to know a few things about flank steak in order to serve it best. Once you understand how to work with it, it’s super easy to prepare. Flank steak is a cut with a lot of flavor. It’s a great cut for beginners as well as advanced cooks.
When I was first learning how to cook, one of the phrases I heard over and over in regards to cooking meat was, “Always cut it across the grain.” Well, fine, but what was the grain I was supposed to be cutting across? Flank steak is the perfect cut of meat to illustrate what “the grain” in a piece of meat is.
Looking at the piece of flank steak above. Notice cracks or lines in the meat running lengthwise through the meat? What you are seeing are the muscle fibers, the grain, of the meat. When you slice a piece of meat, you want to slice across these lines in order to produce a portion of meat with short fibers. Then you’ll have a piece that’s easy to chew. If you cut lengthwise along the grain of the meat you’ll produce a portion that’s stringy and much more difficult to chew. Below is a picture of what I mean:
Here, the meat is clearly being cut across the grain. That is the most important tip in cooking flank steak.
I serve this steak throughout the summer over a salad with steamed rice. The other evening, in a fall twist, I served it with Ibu’s Curried Squash, sauteed green beans flavored with dill, and rice. Equally good.
This is a dish that I usually put together very quickly. The meat generally marinates for 20-30 minutes, but you can marinate it in advance, overnight in the fridge. Another great thing about this preparation is that, being so flavorful, 1/4 pound portions are ample. It really tastes best in combination with salad or other vegetables and rice. This is not a piece of meat that you want to serve in large, single servings. With all of that in mind, here’s my recipe:
Grilled Flank Steak
1 3/4 pounds flank steak, cut across the grain in 3″-4″ wide pieces*
3 tablespoons Asian Fish Sauce**
3 tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed with the back of a knife
Place the pieces of flank steak in a container, preferably one in which the meat can lie flat. I use a glass Pyrex pan. Rub the steak surfaces with the smashed garlic to rub some of the garlic oil onto the meat. Leave the garlic in the container with the meat. In a small bowl, stir the fish sauce and Hoisin to combine. Add the sauce mixture to the pan and spread it over all of the meat’s surfaces. Turn the meat and rub the individual pieces to ensure it is all well covered. While the meat is marinating, start your grill fire.
Grill the meat over a hot fire to your desired doneness. You want to grill this meat over a high heat in order to caramelize the marinade on the meat. Flank steak is relatively thin, so it will cook fairly quickly. Alternately, you could broil the meat. Once it’s cooked, remove it from the heat and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes.
Next, slice the steak across the grain into thin serving pieces. Once cut, the steak will cool rapidly, so serve immediately and enjoy!
*Cutting the flank steak into pieces before marinating it allows more surface to be covered with the marinade. Having plenty of meat surface covered with the caramelized marinade after grilling is your goal here.
**Note that the recipe calls for 50-50 fish sauce and Hoisin. You can easily adjust this recipe up or down using this formula for the marinade. All you need is enough marinade to cover the surface of the meat; you don’t need to submerge the meat.